The Indian Army has issued a fresh Request for Information (RFI) for a fast-track procurement of 93,895 carbines. This comes five months after the defence ministry revoked the case for procuring a similar number of carbines under the Fast-Track Procedure (FTP).
The RFIs were issued on February 10 to multiple Indian and global manufacturers, including Caracal, Colt, SiG Sauer, Beretta, Thales and Adani Defence. In 2018, UAE gun maker Caracal’s CAR 816 carbine had emerged as the lowest bidder in the FTP initiated by the Indian Army for a new compact weapon to replace its World War 2 vintage 9 mm 1A1 ‘Sterling’ carbine. As before, the army wants the new carbine chambered for the 5.56×45 mm cartridge. At just a single page, the army’s new RFI is far simpler compared to its three-page RFI in 2018. The service aims to procure the weapons within a year of the contract signing. The size of this deal is not yet known, but if one were to make estimation from Caracal’s 2018 bid, then it would likely be upwards of $110 million (over Rs 800 crore).
Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar, who heads the Defence Procurement Board (DPB), finally pulled the plug on the acquisition last September. The earlier deal was questioned by senior defence ministry officials on two grounds—i) the carbines were costlier than the US-made SiG 716 assault rifles also imported under the FTP last year for over Rs 700 crore; and ii) the defence ministry officials noted that no part of the weapons was being manufactured indigenously. Last September, Caracal had offered to manufacture all the rifles in-country as part of the government’s Make in India initiative. The UAE government-owned arms maker said it would also oversee technology transfer.
Top army officials had also explored options for purchasing a smaller quantity of around 25,000 carbines from the UAE manufacturer, but this idea seems to have been abandoned in favour of a fresh contract.